28 May

ABAN Business Proposal


Iran is on the brink of a sociopolitical explosion. The Islamic Republic arose from out of a populist revolution for a free and independent nation with a just society. Unfortunately, a clique of clergymen almost immediately derailed the revolution with their religious prejudice, monopolization, foreign interventionism, and violent suppression of dissent. Consequently, Iran has remained decades behind nations that it once surpassed in terms of development, such as South Korea. A majority of Iranians no longer want to live under this religious regime, which has suppressed their legitimate demands and denied them the progress that they deserve on account of their glorious cultural heritage and the country’s rich resources.

The Alliance for a New Iran (ABAN) is a socio-political organization based on the novel idea of mellat-garâi or “Nation-ism.” The goal of ABAN is to build a New Iran by organizing Iranians inside and outside the country around this idea. “Nationism” is an idea that enfolds within itself the inseparable dimension of the Iranian people, their land, cultural history, political state, and geopolitical position. A “Nationist” is an individual who sincerely strives to enhance all of these five dimensions for the sake of building a New Iran. 

Iranian Nationists encourage the cooperation of non-Iranians in the achievement of this aim, albeit with regard for the maintenance of Iran’s national sovereignty. The political independence of ABAN from any and all foreign governments is a steadfast principle of our organization. Preservation of the territorial integrity of the country, the unity of Iran as a nation, Persian as the national language of Iran, and social justice for all Iranians, are among the non-negotiable principles of ABAN Nationists. The basis for strategic alliance of forces seeking a New Iran is the acceptance of ABAN’s organizational bylaws and leadership structure.

The Founder of ABAN

The Alliance for a New Iran (ABAN) and its core idea of “Nationism” is the brainchild of Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi. A Cornel University PhD in International Development and Planning, and Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, Dr. Amirahmadi was the Founder and President of the American Iranian Council and a candidate for the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Dr. Amirahmadi founded and served as the Director of Rutgers University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The author of numerous books and articles, he has received worldwide recognition as an expert on Iranian affairs whose reflections have received international media and press coverage from CNN, FOX, BBC, ABC, PBS, VOA, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal.

Several competitive fellowships and distinguished public and private foundations have conferred grants upon Dr. Amirahmadi, including the US Department of Education, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Open Society Institute. He has also served as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program, the Aga Khan Foundation, the World Bank, and several governments.

The Five Dimensions of ABAN’s “Nationism”

Contemporary Iran has been a laboratory for experiments with many political ideas. The five that played a particularly prominent role are Constitutionalism, Iranism, Socialism, Nationalism, and Islamism. Unfortunately, none of these ideas was able to build a New Iran on its own, and the efforts that each of them made in this direction miscarried. Besides their particular merits and drawbacks, these ideas each have a burdensome past that they cannot disown and that prohibits them from serving as the foundation for building a New Iran. Consequently, members of ABAN are in need of a new idea, namely the “Nationism” that is being suggested here. 

The most important point that renders Nationism distinct from both the ideas of the past and those current within the political opposition of Iran is its power to integrate these ideas. In other words, in Nationism, the dimensions of the people, their land, cultural history, political state, and geopolitical position are not separate components. Rather, they are five interpenetrating dimensions.

It is impossible to build a New Iran without building new Iranians. The Iranian people consist of three social classes, namely the working class, the middle class, and capital-holding class, as well as a variety of special interest groups such as women, the youth, teachers, government workers, immigrants, religious minorities, disabled people, the clergy, and military men. In addition to the increasingly acute economic problems facing the three main social classes, some of these groups face particular types of discrimination. Neo-liberal economists who want to immediately subject Iran to the chaos of market forces disregard the fact that no recently developed country fully privatized its economy in the initial stages of development. China, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and India were all able to undergo development only with their government manning the levers of the economy. Their entrance into the world market was in stages and began with the increase of the competitive strength of domestic producers. The state’s role in development of exports and restriction of imports was also determinative. None of this is meant to suggest a wholly state controlled economy. Rather, the protection of private property, the encouragement of a culture of healthy competition, and a relentless struggle against monopoly and bribery, are all key to meeting people’s needs and wants.

The environmental crises facing the land of Iran are really lethal. These include severe air pollution in major cities, drought-stricken lakes, lagoons, and rivers, deforestation, ruinous use of the nation’s mines, and damage to farming on account of the squandering of sub-surface water. The public health situation has become hazardous due to the lack of management of both human and industrial waste products. ABAN considers preservation of the water, soil, forests, and natural resources of the country to be among its chief priorities. Insofar as proper infrastructural development not only contributes to industry, but is vital to addressing the environmental problems facing the country, ABAN’s program for the period immediately following the transition will also include significant environmentally-friendly construction projects to enhance Iran’s infrastructure.

No country has undergone development under conditions of cultural collapse and when lacking a sense of its historical identity. Countries that have fallen into such a state are actually doomed to annihilation. Islamic Republic broadcasting has been derelict in reviving and propagating positive values from the Pre-Islamic history of Iran. Instead, we see a valorization of sorrow and mourning, and a promotion of superstition, delusion, the sowing of enmity, extremism, intolerance, fanaticism, and bigotry. Education of thought, support for literature and the arts, revitalization of history and the restoration of ancient monuments and other landmark buildings, has the biggest role to play. The tourism industry can function as the driving motor of this culture and history. This in turn requires reasonable relations with the world within the parameters of national interests.

The political state of the New Iran will, above all, be based on the principle of citizenship, the equality of all citizens, and an end to discrimination amongst them on any basis. We ABANists will not compromise on this principle, and we shall not rest until Iranians of all social classes and from all particular groups of society have secured their legitimate rights. This begins with freeing political prisoners and those incarcerated for their beliefs. It demands the separation of religion from the state through a revision of the constitution, which divests the clergy of sovereign authority and recognizes the sovereignty of the Iranian people. Among the key reforms to the constitution is dissolution of the Guardian Council. Instead of theocratic vetting, free elections ought to determine who serves in the executive and legislative branches of government. The judiciary must be purged of clergymen, and a civilian who has the approval of the people should be placed at the head of that branch of government. The new judiciary must help to ensure respect for personal and social freedoms enshrined in the new constitution, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, of dress, of gatherings and parties. The state will also emphasize peaceful international relations.

Iran’s geopolitical position has been compromised by a crisis in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, which is caused by its constitutional mandate to export the Islamic revolution and support all of the world’s downtrodden and oppressed Muslims. This has compromised the independence of the country and diminished its position on the world stage. Dollarization of the economy, signing the nuclear deal, and capitulation to the Caspian Sea convention are examples of the decline of national sovereignty. A strong Iran has always been a stable and peace-loving Iran. Toward the end of building a New Iran, Nationists must also take every opportunity to strive for international cooperation and peace between countries. Empowering Iran and increasing the nation’s ability to act authoritatively must be an ideal that is developmentally compatible with the sustainability of the country. ABAN plans to fully normalize Iran’s diplomatic and trade relations with the United States and Israel within the first 100 days of its transitional government.

Securing a Rapid Transition to a New Iran

We believe that building a New Iran begins with the dignified departure of the clergy from power. We insist on this departure for the sake of both Iran and Islam. Foreign-based Iranian “opposition” groups all suffer from at least one of three major fatal flaws that disqualify them from being able to responsibly guide a transition out of the theocratic regime. The call for a mass revolution with no aim other than holding a free for all “referendum” under conditions of social chaos and political upheaval is totally irresponsible. It endangers the nation’s territorial integrity, and given Iran’s strategic position, this in turn risks compromising the long-term security of the entire region. The call for a violent purge of all elements of the present political establishment is even more reckless and threatens to unleash an unending spiral of political vengeance that ultimately destroys the social fabric of Iran and denies the country the stability for economic and cultural development. Some opposition groups even go so far as to endorse “overthrow” of the present regime by means of direct foreign military intervention, on the model of Iraq and Syria. Aside from the fact that this is treason, when considered from an Iranian standpoint, it would also be catastrophically costly for the countries whose armed intervention is being invited by these traitors.

Despite the extreme schisms that divide foreign-based “opposition” groups to the Islamic Republic, they are united in mistakenly considering everyone who works with the country’s governing elite as part of the “regime.” On account of this misunderstanding, the opposition has alienated massive Iranian-Islamic forces that it could harness – including and especially military men and Islamic forces that are more patriotic, i.e. Religious Nationalists. The rejection of political revenge under a transitional leadership structure, on the part of the members of ABAN, must be a strong incentive for the peaceful departure of the rulers from political power and their return to civil society.

Unlike other options, ABAN’s proposed plan for a multi-phased transition beyond the present rulers, does not primarily or necessarily entail “enmity” with these rulers and their followers – including military men. On the contrary, and up to the extent possible, ABAN wants these rulers to be afforded a “dignified” exit and be replaced by representatives of the people or, in the event that this does not succeed, with military men and populist elites. What is meant here by “populist elites” are technocrats, intellectual statesmen, and thought-leaders with a populist bent and the charisma to connect with masses of people. This populist elite includes individuals whose zealous and heartfelt devotion to the original ideals of the revolution has been betrayed time and time again by the corrupt clergymen and mafias that have consolidated control over the Islamic Republic. By inviting their participation in the transition process, ABAN can convince these revolutionaries to break with the clerical power structure and seek the realization of their ideals by riding the wave of patriotic populism that is now sweeping Iran. 

As populist opposition to the regime has intensified in recent years, the Islamic Republic has become more dependent on the military and security forces for the sake of its own survival. A military revolt may be the least costly option for transition out of an unreasonable regime, and one that meets all of the following conditions: 

  • Seeing through the transition under conditions of security. 
  • Having a significant chance of success (i.e. being practicable). 
  • Coming to pass with the least possible cost in blood and treasure.
  • Reaching its conclusion rapidly. 
  • Being constructive after the transition. 

Some military revolts have been quite constructive. For example, the 1974 coup d’état in Portugal that is known as “the flower cloves revolution”, and the military revolts of Reza Shah in Iran and Kamal Atatürk in Turkey. Military men are usually patriots and modernizing men of action. The best of them are also inclined toward development, since military forces are inherently concerned with technical modernization and attendant industrial development. The most fundamental precondition for our supporting a military revolt is the alignment of the military men involved with the populist elite of the country.

Tactical acceptance of the revolt, and entrance into leadership of it, would be a patriotic and constructive course of action on the part of the elite. After being freed from dependence on the present rulers, the military men will necessarily become dependent on the populist elite. One can even imagine them voluntarily relinquishing power to representatives of the people’s elite and, as the people’s army, concern themselves with providing security and order to a society that has undergone implosion. In other words, even if a military revolt follows it, dignified expulsion of the rulers in the first stage can make way for a powerful entrance on the part of the populist elite in the subsequent stage.

It is certainly conceivable that after dismissing the religious rulers military men might want to hold on to power and be in control without the participation of the political elite. In such a situation, where they decide to move in the direction of a military dictatorship, a working class uprising will materialize and return the country to a state of political upheaval. While supporting this spontaneous uprising, ABAN would guide it in the direction of non-violence. The leaders of ABAN would also try to open a dialogue and initiate negotiations between the military forces and the populist elite of the country with a view to bringing about a unified, patriotic power structure. At the same time, a populist uprising with the backing of the elite will put military men under pressure to accept a compromise. It is in the interest of both the military and the country to preempt a vast and uncontrolled revolution of the masses. That would also be in the interest of foreign investors whose faith in the economic and industrial development of the country will play a key role in the transition out of the Islamic Republic and into a New Iran. 

Investing in a New Iran

Now is the time for commitment from international business interests who want to benefit from a secure transition to a stable, New Iran. This is especially so in the case of foreign investors who have been excluded from the country by 40 years of ideological extremism. It is worth repeating that in the face of the imminent collapse or overthrow of the Islamic Republic, the threats to safe foreign investment in Iran are considerable. Deferring to exiled Iranian “opposition” groups runs the risk of a free for all revolution leading to a referendum election under chaotic conditions, with no foreseeable or trustworthy outcome, the potential for violent political vengeance and a settling of scores spiraling out of control, or even the catastrophic prospect of foreign military intervention leading to a protracted regional war. ABAN’s phased transition plan can prevent all this. We have the intra-regime contacts and domestic legitimacy to secure a disciplined and orderly transition out of the theocratic regime, while normalizing international relations. 

However, no undertaking on this scale is possible without sufficient material resources. We seek a capital infusion from private interests in the amount of $1,556,000, which will be allocated in the manner outlined by the following budget. The leadership of ABAN is confident that these private interests will benefit from a tremendous return on their investment in the form of a stable and development-oriented Iran of the very near future, an Iran with a constructive and key role to play in geopolitics and the world economy.

Estimated Amount (US $)

1. New York City Office 36,000

2. Washington DC Office 36,000

3. London Office 36,000

4. Travel and Accommodations 80,000

5. Social Media

Facebook 12,000

Twitter 12,000

Telegram 12,000

Website 12,000

6. Sociological Analysis and Psychological Operations 372,000

7. Courting International Media Coverage 36,000

8. Coverage on Existing Iranian TV Channels 240,000

9. Independent Broadcasting

Internet TV 30,000

Satellite TV 210,000

Program Production 72,000

10. Field Operations (Inside Iran) 210,000

11. Intra-Regime Contacts and Transition Facilitation 150,000

TOTAL 1,556,000

Read More
28 May

Alliance for a New Iran (ABAN)

October 28, 2018

Press Release

Alliance for a New Iran (ABAN)

Fellow compatriots,

The formation of the Alliance for a New Iran (ABAN) is honored to announce its presence on this October 28, the day commemorating Cyrus the Great. The Proclamation of ABAN, which includes the aims, ideology, necessity, means of transition, and methods for building a New Iran, will be published and disseminated from today onward through radio and television, the press, and social media. In order to familiarize yourself with ABAN please read its Proclamation with care and make us aware of your constructive criticisms. This Proclamation is available on the ABAN telegram channel with the address Please submit your views to this email:

ABAN is a socio-political organization formed on the basis of “Nation-ism” and for the sake of building a New Iran. “Nationism” is a multidimensional concept that includes demographic, governmental, economic, political, environmental, social, cultural, and international dimensions. A Nationist is an Iranian who strives with his heart and soul for the sake of his country’s improvement, and whose goals are making the people happy, industriously cultivating the land, making the culture flower, establishing the rule of law, and elevating Iran’s standing in the world.

The aim of ABAN is to unify Iranians inside and outside of the country around this idea. We respect the intellectual and operational independence of all individuals and groups. ABAN encourages the cooperation of non-Iranians in the achievement of this aim, albeit with regard for the maintenance of Iran’s national sovereignty and independence. The political independence of ABAN from any and all foreign governments is a steadfast principle of our organization. Preservation of the territorial integrity of the country, the unity of Iran as a nation, Persian as the national language of Iran, and social justice for all Iranians, are among the non-negotiable principles of ABAN Nationists.

The New Iran will be an Iran within the framework of the following principles: A secular and democratic regime, a powerful yet peaceful nation, a clean and cultivated country, with a rich and flowering culture, and a regime that is a lawful and lofty member of the international community. The indispensable values of a New Iran include: the will for freedom on an individual and social level, social justice and the inculcation of ethics, the struggle against prejudice and discrimination, abstention from political vengeance, the promotion of peace, and a national independence that does not devolve into isolationism within the context of an increasingly globalized world. These values and principles are the leaven of the Constitution of a New Iran, one aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international conventions.

The extremely grave crisis situation and the backwardness of the country in the governmental, economic, political, environmental, cultural, and international relations domains, taken together with the impotence of the religious rulers in resolving these problems, their obliviousness to the national will for the participation of all Iranians in determining the destiny of their country, the national humiliation caused by taking refuge abroad, the insult to the identity and passport of Iranians, and the factional infighting amongst populist forces and political groups, are all among the most fundamental reasons for forming ABAN. We believe that continuance of the current state of affairs will most certainly push the country off a cliff and into the chasm of annihilation, and for the sake of preempting and averting this otherwise certain collapse, the religious rulers must be expelled from power and replaced by Iranian Nationists.

New ideas change countries, and for bringing a “New Iran” into being we need to make use of a “new idea.” Many ideas have been tried in contemporary Iran. The five of them that played a particularly prominent role are Constitutionalism, Iranism, Socialism, Nationalism, and Islamism. Unfortunately, none of these ideas was able to build a New Iran on its own, and the efforts that each of them made in this direction miscarried. These ideas, some of which were new in their own time, engaged in ideological confrontation with one another instead of allying to benefit the country. The bias of these ideas, usually on account of their one-dimensional view of Iran, was the main reason for their defeat. Our proposed Nationism is multidimensional and has the capability to foster unity and cooperation between the forces that have been attracted to these one-dimensional ideas.

A majority of Iranians no longer want to live with a government that is more interested in promulgating superstition than in improving their material conditions or livelihood. Iranians today are concerned about their future and that of their young children. Meanwhile, despite the stubborn will of its religious leaders, the Islamic Republic does not have the power to secure a new lease on life. In addition to the deepening crises, the majority of the leadership and managerial forces of the regime have been worn out intellectually. The religious regime has lost its political coherence and its practical managerial capability. The governments of the region and in the world do not want to work with the religious regime, even if they occasionally appease it. Iran today is in an irreversible state of transition from out of the religious regime.

That having been said, the people of Iran do not simply want an “overthrow” as they did forty years ago. They are more concerned with contemplating what constructive endeavors there may be following the overthrow. Iranians clearly feel that transition from out of this regime must come to pass with as little cost as possible, and in a realistic, secure, and rapid manner. Above all, the transition must result in a regime that is concerned with fostering development and building a New Iran. ABAN has these same preconditions as the people. But unfortunately, the options offered by most political forces opposed to the regime fail to meet at least some, if not all, of these conditions. Their proposals are lacking in attention to the challenging realities of the country. They are after courses of action that either will not resolve the crisis, are not practicable, or will magnify the dimensions of the crisis and the costs of transition.

With a view to the internal situation of the country, foreign pressures, and the insistence of the sovereign government to stay the course and maintain the current state of affairs, the three options of revolution, a coup d’état or a military revolt and popular uprising, have a high chance of materializing in either a spontaneous or an imposed manner. The preference of ABAN for transition out of the extant sovereign government, includes:

  • Dialogue and populist pressure for structural changes.
  • A military revolt with the backing of the populist elite.
  • A non-violent uprising on the part of the working class. 

ABAN would accept the last two options manifesting as exigencies and would enter onto the scene in a serious manner with a view to constructively guiding them. At the same time, ABAN supports any course of action that meets the following conditions: 

  • Seeing through the transition under conditions of security. 
  • Having a chance of success. 
  • Coming to pass with the least possible cost in blood and treasure.
  • Reaching its conclusion rapidly. 
  • Being constructive after the transition. 

The ABAN package of proposed structural changes includes these items: 

  • Implementation of the original ideals of the revolution, including freedom, justice, and independence.
  • Freeing of political prisoners and those incarcerated for their beliefs.
  • The separation of religion from government.
  • Dissolution of the Guardian Council and other institutions controlled by the rulers.
  • Free elections to determine who serves in the executive and legislative branches of government.
  • Purging the judiciary and placing a judge who is not from the clergy, and who has the approval of the people, at the head of that branch of government.
  • Revision of the constitution and dissolution of the sovereignty of the clergy in favor of that of the sovereignty of the people.
  • Unconditional assurance of personal and social freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, of dress, of gatherings and parties.
  • The elimination of every form of discrimination against citizens, Iranian peoples, and the minorities of the country.
  • Emphasis on peaceful international relations.
  • A constitutional prohibition of political revenge regardless of the excuses made for it.

All of the elements of this package are inextricable from one another and must be implemented in their totality.

The program of ABAN for two conditions, the immediate situation and long-term development, will be designed and prepared for implementation in two stages. In the first stage, the goal is rapidly resolving the economic, political, environmental, cultural, governmental and international crises of the country. A rapid and tactful transition from out of this hazardous situation must be the priority of the transitional government. In the second stage, the comprehensive development of the country will be considered. This middle and long-term program revolves around axes that include: the development of the government and of civil society; economic development; political development; social development; cultural development; spatial development; and development of international relations. The aim of the development program at this stage is the building of a New Iran, wherein people will be joyous, the land will be well-cultivated and industriously developed, the society dynamic, the culture flowering, and the government legitimate. The country will have authoritative power and a relationship with the world that can be a source of pride.

The building of a New Iran begins with the comprehensive development of its people, and the ultimate goal of this development must be making Iranians happy and democratic. The people of Iran are made up of three social classes: the lower-income and working class, the middle class and intellectuals, and professionals and capital-owning people. The poor and workers have their basic needs, especially work, housing, education, health, and recreation. They seek a just distribution of the country’s resources. The middle and intellectual class needs freedom and wants political development. The upper and professional class have a need for the accumulation of capital and provision of services. They want economic and political stability. The following program for the democratic development of the country and the happiness of the people is meant to be answerable to these diverse needs.

Other important social forces exist that have their own special needs. These include women, the youth, teachers, government workers, immigrants, religious minorities, disabled people, the clergy, and military men. Besides those needs that they have attendant to the social class that they belong to, these forces have other special needs and wants that must be met. For example, there is the problem of discrimination that faces women and minorities, and the problem that the disabled and the youth have with gaining access to resources and recreation. The ABAN program of action will also be responsive to the needs of these special groups in society.

Building a New Iran without building new Iranians is impossible. We are hopeful that the ideal of “good thoughts, good words, and good deeds” will become the leaven of the character of all Iranians and of their political culture. In order to build such Iranians, we Nationists of ABAN will, on the basis of the idea of Nationism, struggle with our heart and soul and make sacrifices for the progress of all of our people, land, government, and culture, and to promote positive international relations for Iran. We want you to join us and do likewise. In this movement toward a New Iran, our guide is the principle of citizenship, the equality of all citizens, and an end to discrimination amongst them on any basis. We ABANists will never compromise on this principle.

Joy to the people of Iran! Long live the land of Iran! 

Read More
13 May


Hooshang Amirahmadi’s latest interview regarding US-Iran relations

Read More
13 May

US-Iran Relations

Europeans feeding Iran empty promises – president of American-Iranian Council

Tensions between Iran and the US spiral, with Washington pushing its European allies to abandon the nuclear deal and Tehran unwilling to compromise. Can they still pull out of the nose dive? We asked Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, three-time Iranian presidential hopeful and president of the American-Iranian Council.

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Sophie Shevardnadze: Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, president of the American-Iranian Council, welcome to the show, it’s great to have you with us. So speaking about the sanctions against Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently said that Europeans will have to “get wet” if they want to swim against the tide of the U.S. unilateral anti-Iran moves. Will European countries in your opinion actually go on and risk anything for sake of keeping trade ties with Iran alive?

Hooshang Amirahmadi: Well I don’t believe, I never believed that without America Europeans will be any effective and helpful to Iran. In fact the Europeans have been playing a very unfair game. They want to keep Iran in the JCPOA. And, therefore, they keep giving Iran empty promises – promises that they cannot deliver on. The purpose of European empty promises is just to keep Iran in the JCPOA. Iran so far has also been willing to listen to those empty promises because Iran also wants to have a legitimate reason to stay in the JCPOA. Iran doesn’t want to leave, it is afraid to leave and, therefore, it is also looking for a pretext to stay. And I believe Europeans are also playing that game, giving Iran that pretext to stay in the JCPOA, otherwise there is no help or hope from Europe for Iran.

SS: European companies (like French oil giant Total or Danish shipping heavyweight Maersk and many others) have already withdrawn from Iran over fears of U.S. sanctions. Does this mean that trying to save the deal is really a losing battle for the Europeans?  

HA: It certainly is and I don’t believe Europeans believe that they can save the deal. But the problem is this: the one that wants to save the deal is Iran. That’s the problem. Iran doesn’t want to get out of the deal. Europeans are giving Iran the pretext Iran needs. The bottom line – the one that wants to stay in the deal is Iran because Iran is afraid of exiting the deal and making America even more, you know, aggressive. So in fact Iran also is trying to stay in the deal. By the way we all know that European governments do not control the private sector. So the promises that the European governments are giving are the promises that the governments are giving, not the private sector and the private sector is not listening to their governments and that’s why they have left or leaving Iran in large numbers. In the meantime the Europeans have come up with this scheme called INSTEX. It’s basically a trade mechanism that supposedly will help certain trade to continue and particularly trade in so-called legitimate commodities – commodities that are not under U.S. sanctions like medicine and food items.

SS: Exactly. Here’s my next question because it seems like Turkey is planning to set up a similar framework to the European one. But Turkey and Iran are not exactly the closest of countries. Their relations are somewhat strained over Syria and other issues. So how far can this cooperation go? Is this just a shaky marriage of convenience for both countries?

HA: Again these schemes are really… At the bottom of it are sort of oil for food or oil for medicine or other commodities for food and medicine similar to what existed for Iraq back in 2003, that was before the U.S. invaded Iraq. It’s only unfortunate that Iran will have to come after the JCPOA to such a situation. And I think no country will want to really jeopardise its relationship, I mean, economic relationship with the United States of America.

SS: A group of U.S. senators has recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post, suggesting that the Trump administration has been trying to establish a strong link between Iran and Al-Qaeda based on no hard evidence, and may be using this speculation as a pretext to strike Iran (just like what happened with Iraq in 2003). Does Iran take these kinds of speculations seriously or is it just internal American politics at play?

HA: Yeah that’s a very good question. My own view of this is that Iran misread Trump, misunderstood Trump and messed up its relationship with the U.S. under Trump significantly to the point of bringing the relationship into some kind of a danger. Trump is a businessman. Trump is not a politician. Trump is not a diplomat. From day one Trump wanted this nuclear deal to be renegotiated. Remember, Trump had waited for almost a year before he left JCPOA, he did not leave JCPOA immediately after he became president. He gave Iran a long time to think about and he tried his best and Trump did not re-impose sanctions for almost a year. Even after he re-imposed sanctions, he actually gave eight countries a way-out for exporting Iran’s oil and they continue to buy Iran’s oil. So I think Trump cannot be responsible for everything that has happened between Iran and the U.S. I believe Iran has to take at least a big part of this responsibility and I particularly fault Iran’s foreign minister Mr. Zarif and Iran’s President Rouhani because both of them were so in love with the JCPOA, they could not see that particular deal renegotiated.

SS: What you’re saying is that Iran is interested to stay in the deal… But back in July Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has ordered the country’s atomic energy agency to prepare for an upgrade of Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity. Is Iranian leadership bluffing? Or is it serious about restarting the country’s nuclear program?

HA: No. Ok, first, even within the JCPOA Iran has a right to do certain things. What Mr. Khamenei ordered was not outside the JCPOA. It is part of the JCPOA. So, therefore, by ordering that particular action Mr. Khamenei was not violating the JCPOA. Iran has not violated the JCPOA even at a millimetre. Absolutely zero. And, therefore, there has been no violation of the JCPOA from the Iran side. The International Energy Atomic Agency has verified that many many times and Iran continues to stay solid within the JCPOA and, therefore, whatever has happened to JCPOA, as far as the JCPOA goes is the U.S. side that is responsible. Iran doesn’t dare to leave and go outside the JCPOA. The JCPOA has become a trap for Iran: staying in the JCPOA gives it nothing, it is a one way street, but leaving JCPOA creates even more dangers for Iran because it gives pretext to others to do even the worst.

SS: So, President Rouhani has recently said that U.S.-Iranian tensions are at a maximum. Hostile rhetoric has indeed been mounting from both sides since Trump pulled U.S. out of the nuclear deal. However, like with North Korea, it could be just Trump’s way of establishing a negotiations process, and the U.S. president has said he wanted to meet Iran’s leader. Would Mr. Rouhani agree to a tete-a-tete with him?

HA: Well, this is not the… The problem is, Mr. Rouhani is nobody, he just can’t make that decision. I think it is the Supreme Leader who will make that decision. Unfortunately, Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif, they messed up the nuclear deal, and they have given Mr. Khamenei all kinds of promises, and at the end of the day, they could not deliver any. Mr. Khamenei therefore has become violently against the U.S. and against any new deal because he does not believe that either these people are able to deliver anything, or the U.S. is willing to abide by any new rules. So therefore, it is Mr. Khamenei who is keeping the gate closed between U.S. and Iran.

SS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously invited Iranians to look at U.S. diplomacy to North Korea as an example of Washington’s negotiation powers. However, nothing really came out yet of the flashy diplomacy and American pressure. So are negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang really a good example for Tehran to watch?

HA: Not really. I think Iran has to find its own modern. I mean, first, I think Mr. Trump was, when it comes to Iran, an opportunity that turned to become a threat. But I have to also say that Trump administration is the first administration in the last 40 years after Iran’s revolution that has offered Iran a comprehensive negotiation toward normalization of relationship. They really offered a comprehensive deal toward normalization of relationship meaning the U.S. will get into the Iranian economy, help the economy, and the rest of it. I think Iran missed a major opportunity, and it has to find its own model. North Korea is not the model that Iran should follow, Iran is a huge country, it is a very important country, and the idea is, U.S. really needs Iran in that part of the world to create the regional stability, regional peace. North Korea is an isolated state, it is really nothing, it is nobody. So I think I would say Iran is way too important for Mr. Trump to consider it as North Korea, or any other state in those terms. It has to see Iran as Iran, a country of 3000 years of civilization, 82 million people, a geography huge, ok, not all of it.

SS: Iran is largely seen as wielding more influence in Iraq than the Americans, especially post-ISIS. Iran is a Shia power, though, and Iraq has lots of restive Sunnis ready to rise again. Can increased Iranian influence in the country trigger a new onset of sectarian violence?

HA: Yeah… Well, again, I don’t believe the problem in the region between Iran and the rest of the community out there, the countries, is just Shia-Sunni. The Shia-Sunni divide is one issue, but it has been there for centuries. For 1400 years, so that issue is not really a strategic matter, and they should not make it a key dividing line. The dividing line is still this country’s national interest. Whenever it comes to the national interests, for example, Iraqis are in the other side, Iran is on own side, although Iraq is a Shia country, largely. But that’s the only country in the Middle East that had an eight-year war with Iran, a lot of Shias on both sides killed each, other over half a million Shias on both sides killed each other. So I don’t think that it is just the Sunni-Shia issue, it’s the national interest of these countries, and I think all of them have to come together on that basis. The fact is, that today’s world is not the world that one country will maximize its interest against the interest of others. Every nation must benefit from any deal in the region. The biggest, I think, mistake that the JCPOA made was that it did not include, like, Israel, Saudi Arabia, or any of Iran’s neighbour.

SS: With the nuclear deal in jeopardy, the positions of anti-deal Iranian conservatives are reinforced inside the country. Could the hostility from the West push Iran into a more hardline political regime?

HA: Well, Iran is going towards radicalism and hardline politics, no question about it. Remember, the Islamic Republic’s problems are only 20% sanctions. Eighty percent of Iran’s problems is domestic, and it has to do with mismanagement of its economy. The country’s economy is going down not just because of the sanctions that American imposed, but because it is being mismanaged. The inflation is over 100%, unemployment over 40%, income is declining, particularly, for the middle classes. So Iran is in very serious problem, and I think the country is moving in the direction of a critical situation towards the end of this summer, and a lot can happen. So I think, if I was Iran, I will make a huge domestic change. Iran really needs to change its domestic… It has to restructure that regime significantly and bring the people back to its side, bring the right people to manage the country, and should not put all its eggs on this side of trying to get help from Europeans and others on sanctions, or anything close to that. The Islamic Republic cannot just blame Trump for all its ills, the problem is that the regime itself says that 80% of its problems are domestic, and they are management issues. They say they addressed that, but the only way to do it is to restructure.

SS: So Iran is also accused of being involved in Yemen. While the Saudis are going for a full-on intervention, will Iran ever get involved directly on the side of the Houthis?

HA: So the problem is this… You know, Yemen is an Arab country, and it is in the Arab world. Syria is an Arab country, it’s in the Arab world. Iraq is an Arab country, it’s in the Arab world. Iran is neither an Arab nor it belongs to the Arab world. So when the Saudis intervene in Yemen, or in Syria and elsewhere, it is legitimate, so-called. But when Iran does it. it’s illegitimate because Iran has moved beyond its territory. It’s unfortunate, this is double standard, of course, but it is also understandable, because Saudis and the Arab world say: why the hell with Iran to intervene in the Arab world, quote unquote, although we don’t really have an Arab world, there are so many problems within the Arabs themselves. But nonetheless, Iran, I believe, should stay away from the Arab world. It should go back to its own borders, ok, and create a whole new relationship.

SS: The U.S. Senate just passed a resolution that calls for ending U.S. support to the Saudi campaign in Yemen, and it is expected to make it through the House and be vetoed by Trump. Is this a sign of what’s to come if Democrats win in 2020? Can Saudis afford to continue with their rivalry with Iran if they fall out of Washington’s favour?

HA: Well, first up, the Yemen and the Saudis intervention in Yemen started under President Obama, it did not just start with Mr. Trump. That’s a mistake. In fact, no president of the United States sold as much weaponry to the Middle East than Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama has a record of selling military machinery to Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, ok? But it was very quiet and nice. After all, the question… There is not much of a big difference when it comes to Republicans or Democrats when it comes to foreign policy. They really come together. They have certain, you know, policy differences, but at the end of the day, they really come together. In fact, I believe, and if it is true, Mr. Trump is not a regime-changer, he is not an interventionist. He has always said that I don’t want to get into it, I want us to get out of Syria. I could promise you that Hillary would have 100% intervened in Syria militarily. She would never have given up on Assad. But Trump gave up. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding of what Trump is doing or who Trump is, and what the American Democrats are. It’s only unfortunate that a lot of misinformation is going around. The only reason that’s the case is because Mr. Trump has a big mouth.

SS: Alright. Thank you so much for this interview, we were talking to Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, three-time Iranian presidential hopeful and president of the American Iranian Council, discussing the tense relations between the two nations in the context of wider Middle East. That’s it for this edition of SophieCo, I’ll see you next time.  

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13 May


IMF: US Sanctions Cutting Iranian Growth, Boosting Inflation

The International Monetary Fund is forecasting Iran’s economy to shrink by 6% this year as it faces pressure from U.S. sanctions.

In a report released Monday, the IMF said its estimates for Iran, which include the potential for inflation to top 40%, predate a U.S. decision to end waivers that have allowed some Iranian oil buyers to continue making their purchases despite new sanctions that went into effect last year.

The Trump administration is due to formally end the waivers on Thursday for some of Iran’s top crude purchasers, including China, India, Japan, Turkey and South Korea. (VOA News)

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